Capital murder trial begins Monday, inmate faces possible death sentence

Tracy entering the courtroom in New Boston, Texas - Jan 08, 2016 (photo by Field Walsh)
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New Boston, Texas: A jury of seven men and five women, along with two female alternates, is expected to hear opening statements Monday morning at the Bowie County courtouse in New Boston in the trial of a Texas prison inmate accused of beating a correctional officer to death in 2015.

Billy Joel Tracy, 39, is accused of using a metal tray slot bar like a baseball bat after slipping free of his hand cuffs and attacking 47-year-old Timothy Davison during a walk from a prison dayroom back to Tracy’s one-man cell at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston on the morning of July 15, 2015. Davison was pronounced dead at a Texarkana hospital within hours of the assault.

The jury is expected to see video of the killing captured on prison video surveillance, meaning the case is not a “who done it” and that the trial will probably focus more on what punishment Tracy should receive than whether he is actually guilty as charged. Tracy has a notable history of violence since being sentenced to life by a jury in Rockwall County for aggravated assault, burglary of a habitation, and assault on a public servant in 1998. Tracy was sentenced to a 45-year term in 2005 for assaulting an officer at a prison in Potter County and to a 10-year term in 2011 for assaulting an officer in Jones County.

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The guilt/innocence phase of Tracy’s trial is expected to take about a week, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart said at a pretrial hearing last week. The punishment phase could take much longer as both sides may call experts to support their position as to whether Tracy should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection and because the state has filed notice that it will call dozens of witnesses who’ve experienced Tracy’s violence first hand. The second phase of trial is scheduled to start Nov. 1.

Bowie County Assistant District Attorneys Kelley Crisp and Lauren Richards are representing the state. Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana are defending Tracy.

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